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Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Golden Age of Gaming?

So, I'm reading this blog, Grognardia, which can be found
where the author is talking about what he regards as the Golden Age of RPG gaming.

To save you the hassle of reading it all, he puts the Golden Age as being between 1974 (the first marketing of D&D) and 1982 (the time where D&D pretty much went mainstream with major marketing pushes; the time it really began to become available at all mall bookstores, toy stores, and suchlike). He has a lot more to say; I recommend his article.

I would argue his point, though -- the idea that this time frame represented the greatest age of RPG gaming, and that the present is something of a "dark age."

I was there for a lot of his Golden Age. I first heard of D&D in 1977, only three years after its introduction. It was, at the time, largely an underground phenomenon, spread through game outlets and comic shops, which were themselves fairly new, rare, and far between. Being as I grew up in a tiny cow town in the middle of nowhere, Texas, if not for Rolling Stone, I would never have heard of D&D at all. But I did, and I got into it, and I enjoyed it immensely. But it had its drawbacks.

1. MINIATURES. Okay, miniatures back then sucked. Sure, there were some talented people working for Ral Partha, but the vast majority of Grenadier's, Dragontooth's, Martian Metals', and other companies' stuff was WAY lacking by today's standards. That, plus the fact that finding a place that carried these minis, and buying them, was a trick and a half. Remember what I said about little cow towns. Every mini I owned in the first few years of gaming, I ordered from the Dungeon in Lake Geneva, sight unseen, from their badly mimeographed catalogs. Only after this Golden Age was nearly gone was I able to jump in my car and drive half the length of Texas and seek out hobby shops on my own... and even then, the selection was hella limited. NOBODY carried them all. Unless you could get to Nan's Toys in Houston, or King's Hobbies in Austin, or the Dungeon in San Antonio, or whatever that place was called up in the DFW Metroplex, you were pretty much out of luck.

2. PRODUCT. There wasn't a lot of product available back then. This has been called both good and bad... but, you know, the way I learned to Dungeon Master was by reading all the "Against The Giants" modules, when they first came out, one at a time. Man, you need examples to work from! RPGs aren't something you can pick up by reading!

3. INFORMATION. What I knew about D&D, I learned from reading the products. Later, I subscribed to Dragon magazine, which taught me a lot about the hobby. WAS no intertubes back then, friends! Dragon, Starlog, and Starlog Publishing's spinoff, Fantasy Modeling were my lifeline to geek culture back then...
I could go on in this vein, but I think I've hammered the point down pretty well. Nowadays, I can literally buy decent miniatures at WAL-MART, of all places... and if I want to order some from somewhere, I can see exactly what I want for a competitive price on the Internet, the same internet I connect with zillions of other geeks daily. I can compare notes. I can read other gamers' blogs. I can talk to them, and listen to them. I can find inspirational art, I can find out how to paint miniatures (as opposed to having to literally invent the process myself over a period of years), I can have it all at my fingertips.
This is a golden age, it really is. True, my kind of gaming has a serious competition with everything else screaming for everyone's attention -- there are more than five TV channels now, the internet offers many other kinds of entertainment, and even for those who are into RPGs, why not just sign up for World of Warcraft?
But for those of us who choose this road, our options are more unlimited than ever. NOW is the golden age, folks. Let's carpe some diem.

1 comment:

  1. I'm with you on this one. The town I grew up in was your typical midwestern rural county seat. We did have the advantage of having a gamestore that carried D&D. But I had to deal with a grandmother who was convinced that D&D was responsible for a rash my cousin once got (they lived in Chicago and had regular access to lots of stuff). Most people would think "grandma? big deal." but she played a big role in my life then.

    Unfortunately the store closed when I was old enough to have a job and a car. I had heard of a store in Toledo, but had no idea where it was and like you say, no Internet to hop on Google Maps and get directions.

    My friend and I started playing in 5th or 6th grade. I don't remember exactly how we did it, but I remember that later on we figured out we weren't playing it like it was supposed to be. Later one we got more of the gist of roleplaying, but finding a group was difficult because nobody wanted to talk about it for fear of being further ostracized than they already were or branded a devil worshiper.

    Believe it or not, I didn't find a more open community for roleplaying until I joined the Army and were surrounded by more like-minded people in a time when roleplaying games were becoming more accepted.

    I really think now is the "Golden Age" for both RPGs and tabletop wargaming. Availability is ridiculous, it's relatively accepted (mostly), and the ability to speak with people also interested (even if only online). But I do think the days are numbered before computer gaming fully wins out. Good thing I have plenty of miniatures to last me a while!